April 7, 2016

Coffins, Bugs and Darkness

After I graduated middle school we were on the move again because Peter announced he was moving in with his girlfriend and mother decided to get a smaller apartment.

The day Peter announced he was moving out was one of the worst days of my life.  I felt abandoned and terrified of what would happen to me alone with mother and Grace without Peter to stand up for me or trying to protect me.

Even though most of Peter's attempts to protect me had failed, it was comforting to know that there was one person who was there for me.  It also became obvious that neither mother nor Grace would do anything horrible if Peter was home, but now that he would be gone, they could do anything they wanted.

It was a time in my life where I had seriously thought about taking my own life.  I had never felt the depression I felt the day Peter moved out.  Despite all of his assurances that he would call me every day and that he would always be there for me, I felt defeated and doomed.

I became acutely aware of how terrified I was of both my mother and sister.  Peter was the only normal person in my life.  He was the only comfort and safety I had at home and now that I was losing that comfort and safety, I could feel fear and desperation suffocating me.

Every time I went to the kitchen I eyed the knives and thought about cutting my wrists.  Every time I went to the bathroom I eyed mother's prescription medications and thought about taking a hot bath, swallowing all her medicines and dying peacefully.

I was so depressed I no longer cared if taking my own life brought joy to either mother or Grace.  The thought of living alone with them was the worse punishment I had ever received.

Little did my mother know that in her attempt to damage my mind further, she had probably saved my life.

It was a cold winter’s night when I was a little girl home alone with my mother.  We were watching an old black and white crime mystery show on television while mother ironed clothes.  In the television show a man had been found murdered in his office.  I asked mother what happened when we died.

I believed a beautiful white chariot pulled by beautiful white horses and driven by an angel came to pick up our souls to take to heaven after we died.  I think I wanted mother to confirm my belief because it was such a beautiful image I had in my mind.

My mother told me that when I die a doctor will cut me open and take everything out, my brain, my heart, my stomach, everything.  Afterwards I would be put into a box and buried six feet underground where it was pitch black.  She went on to tell me that within a few days all the maggots, worms and other bugs would make their way into the dark box and start eating me until there was nothing left except my bones.  When she was done she smiled as she looked at me and told me that's what would happen.

I finished watching the crime mystery show without hearing anything that was happening.  My mind was racing.  She didn't mention heaven or angels.  She said it would be pitch black in the box, which must mean that I would still be able to feel everything.  Instead of going to heaven I would feel the bugs eating me. 

I had nightmares for days of being eaten alive by bugs.  Every idea I had of heaven was gone.  I felt confused because when we went to church they spoke of a beautiful place called heaven.  Maybe normal people went to heaven, but because I was a mistake, I wouldn't get to go to heaven, or maybe there was no such place.

I developed a horrible fear of death because of mother's description of death.  I continued to irrationally believe that I would feel death even after I died.  I continued to believe that I would spend eternity in a horrible darkness where I would feel the horrendous pain of being eaten by bugs.

The nightmares of mother’s description of death were exacerbated by memories I had when we first moved to Chicago and we lived in the basement of an abandoned building.  I had clear memories of mother putting me an old crib to sleep that she found in the basement which I was big for but there was nowhere else for me to sleep.  I remembered how I would cry as mother would brush roaches off of me and put toilet paper in my ears so they wouldn’t crawl in my ears while I slept.

I had developed a fear of bugs because of those memories, and the idea of bugs eating me after I died was even more terrifying because of the fears I developed in the basement of that abandoned building.

When Peter moved out, I was older and knew I wouldn't feel anything after I died, but there remained an irrational part of my mind that was scared that I was wrong and I would spend eternity in pitch darkness and pain only found in horror movies.

It was this irrational fear that mother instilled in me that kept me from committing suicide.  Even though I was so depressed I didn't care if my death would bring joy to mother or Grace, I wasn't in a hurry to enter the darkness and pain of death that mother had so clearly described.

Even though mother's description of death may have saved my life, it also caused me to suffer anxiety and fear the rest of my life.  I would spend my life avoiding anything that may have caused me harm, even when I knew the perceived harm was imaginary.

My fear of death kept me from committing suicide, but when my fears of living alone with mother and Grace were substantiated, I would often revisit the idea of suicide and wonder if the pain of death would be less horrendous than the pain they inflicted.

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